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learning.now: at the crossroads of Internet culture & education with host Andy Carvin

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June152007

It’s Never Too Early for Student-Generated Political Videos

With the election kicking into high gear, there’s no doubt we’ll see some interesting uses of student-generated content in the classroom over the coming school year. But that doesn’t mean that some students aren’t getting a head start.

For those of you who have been reading my blog since it began just over a year ago, you may remember the time last July when I blogged about an initiative in Buffalo, New York in which students were taught video production skills to give them a new outlet for learning about a wide range of topics. These students produced videos on history, language arts, even social justice, then made them available online for public feedback.

Not long after the school year ended, I got an email from one of the teachers in Buffalo who was using video in a variety of creative ways. Keith Hughes teaches government at Buffalo’s McKinley High School, and he’s not waiting until the upcoming school year to get his students using video to learn about politics.

For one thing, Hughes has produced a series of video lectures about the U.S. government and its history, which students can access as they prepare for their regents exam. The videos cover everything ranging from U.S. colonialism to the flexibility of the U.S. Constitution.

But here’s where things get interesting: rather than hogging the video equipment for himself, Hughes turned it over to his students and gave them a challenge: produce a series of compelling campaign ads for presidential candidates. To complete the assignment, students would need to analyze the political position of each candidate in contrast with their opponents, and then produce appropriate messaging that would communicate the values that candidate represented to a public audience. Video production became a vehicle for getting the students to think beyond their own political beliefs, and explore how media can be used to sway peoples’ opinions.

Over the course of the school year, the students produced a series of campaign ads representing past and future presidential candidates. The John Kerry ad, for example, uses the notion of supporting our troops as a vehicle for criticizing his opponent. In contrast, a John McCain ad evokes the tragedy of September 11 to rally public support. Their Barack Obama ad shows a young man repeatedly climbing the same stairs, stuck in a rut and looking for leadership to lead him on a new path. And the Dennis Kucinich ad takes a scathing comedic approach, embracing his underdog status as an opportunity to go after, well, pretty much everyone, from President Bush to Al Gore to Mark Foley to even NASA.

Of course, there are probably hundreds of educators, if not more, who are doing exactly what Hughes has done in his classroom. And thanks to video sharing sites like UthTV and SchoolTube, it’s becoming easier than ever for students to upload their content to online communities where the focus is educational. Hopefully, we’ll also see teachers teaching students effective techniques for tagging their content, so it’ll be easy for the rest of us to access specific content when we wish to use it in our own classrooms.

I can’t wait to see what Hughes’ students come up with next year. -andy

Filed under : Media Literacy, Video, Youth Media

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